With all the hunting gear out there today, it can sometimes be difficult to determine what you need and what you don’t need.
If you never tried to sort it out, you would be left with a pickup bed full of stuff to take on each and every hunt. Some hunters choose items A,B,C, while others opt for X,Y,Z.
One piece of gear that is increasingly becoming standard equipment with nearly every hunter is a rangefinder. If you are on the hunt for the best and are working to a budget, this article will show you the options we think are worth your consideration.
Budget Rangefinder Picks
Note: Our individual reviews are below, but you can also click any of the links above to check current prices on Amazon.
What to look for...
Here are the top 8 features to consider when buying a rangefinder. We've also gone into some detail previously about how rangefinders work if you're after more background info.
When it comes to accuracy, rangefinder technology has come a long way in the past few decades. Even when searching for budget rangefinders, you should be able to buy a product that is accurate to within +/-1 yard/meter. Don't foget that's the advertised capability, that type of accuracy may be under ideal conditions and the type of item you are ranging will usually not!
Range is a similar story. Some rangefinders are rated to over a kilometer, while some won’t work past 200 m. How far your rangefinder needs to work will depend on whether you rifle hunt or bow hunt.
Less than 200 yards works great for bow-hunting and the units usually cost at lot less. Don't forget that range is also impacted by weather conditions and the type of item you are ranging. Highly reflective items, such as a road signs, will range further away than a living animal like a deer. Some manufacturers tell you the max range for certain types of items, and others will not.
Ease of Operation
Another feature you may want to consider is how the rangefinder measures distance. Some work only in yards, some work only in meters, and others will allow you to toggle back and forth. For the average hunter this might not be an issue, but for some target shooters it might be worth considering.
Another aspect of a rangefinder’s ease is the number of buttons they have. Some models come with only 1 button making them very simple to operate. Others come with a variety of different buttons, giving the unit more versatility. It’s all about what you want.
Finally, certain models have the ability to select different points of measurement. This allows you to switch between the tree branch, fence post, and buck deer that are all in your field of vision. This can be very handy in certain situations.
ARC, AI, Tilt and Elevation
Another feature you may want included on your rangefinder is an ARC, AI, Tilt, or Elevation capability. Each of these denote the same feature, it just depends on what company you are buying from. Basically, the feature automatically computes a “shoot like” distance as well as actual line of sight distance.
Here is an example that might help make the feature make sense.
Say you are in a tree-stand about 20 feet up, when a nice whitetail buck walks by a tree that is 20 yards away. If you shoot at the deer with your 20 yard pin, you will miss because of the added angle.
The ARC feature will tell you the horizontal distance is 20 yards, but the “shoot like” distance is only 16 yards.
Different rangefinders come with different battery options. Some will require you to use standard AA or CV batteries, while others are rechargeable. Each style has its own set of advantages. Replacing batteries is nice for the fact that if you are in the field you can simply swap them out for spares you've taken with you and keep working.
On the other hand, rechargeable batteries are great because you don’t have to keep buying spares! While most rangefinders seem to have a good battery life, it is still something you should consider.
Magnification and Objective Lens Size
The next thing to consider is how the optics on the rangefinder work. Each rangefinder will come with a set of numbers, say 4 x 21mm. The first number in this number combo is the magnification. In this case the object will be 4 times as big as you can see it with your naked eye. The more magnification you have, the more precise you can be when you range.
On the other hand, a rangefinder with more magnification will decrease the total space you can see at one time (the field of view).
The second number is the objective lens size and refers to the size of the lens in millimeters. The larger the lens the more light it will collect and the easier it will be to see.
Conversely, the larger the lens the larger the overall unit is likely to be. If you are looking for something compact you might want a smaller lens. We've an entire piece on scope numbers if you'd like to know more.
Another option you will want consider looking for when you buy your budget rangefinder is ensuring the unit is fog-proof and waterproof. On many occasions when you are out in the field these two can come into play. If your rangefinder doesn’t claim to be fog and waterproof, it could wind up letting moisture into the unit and ruin the hunt.
These simple features are guaranteed on many models, and something you will likely want to check off before making your purchase.
One feature that you may also want to consider is getting a rangefinder that comes with armor, or a skin. These protective cases can be made of several different materials, but silicon rubber is perhaps the most common. These sorts of cases can help absorb the shock if your rangefinder happens to fall, and can help keep it clean as well. Skins can be a 'nice to have', but by no means required.
Finally, some rangefinders come with tethers and cases. While neither of these are required they might be appealing. Tethers are a nice way to carry your rangefinder in the field and cases can keep it from getting damaged.
Rangefinder Reviews - Our Top Picks In Detail
Wosports Lions W600
"a compact popular choice"
The Wosports Lions W600 rangefinder is one of the most popular budget rangefinders out there. It has a range that reaches out to 600 yards with a +/-1 yard accuracy. This capability makes it suitable for most hunting situations.
In terms of optics this unit is a 6 x 25 mm unit which would make it a good choice for rifle hunters who might need the extra magnification.
A 25 mm optical lens is good enough to let a decent amount of light in for average clarity.
One of the biggest draws to the Wosports rangefinder is the size. It is very small (127 x 80 x 43 mm) and light as well. Hunters looking for a unit they can throw in their pack for an extended backpacking trip, or those who want to keep their pack as small as possible, will certainly find this attractive.
One downside of this unit is that it runs on a CR2 3v battery. While these batteries can be picked up at major outlet stores, they aren’t common in smaller shops. If you are leaving town for an extended hunt, you wouldn’t want to leave the house without a few spares in case your battery would happen to die. The unit also does not claim to be either waterproof or fogproof. If you hunt an area with a good amount of moisture, this may not be a good fit.
The Lions W600 also comes complete with a rubberized skin and a black carrying case. The case has a small carabiner that allows you to clip it to your backpack or belt loop if you want to. While this can be handy, most hunters find a tether a more convenient option. That being said, it likely won’t be a make-or-break aspect of this particular rangefinder.
- 6x magnification
- Uncommon battery
- Not fog or waterproof
TecTecTec Pro Wild
"compact and camo"
Another option is the TecTecTec Pro Wild rangefinder. This unit doesn’t reach out quite as far as the Wosports W600, but it still claims to range objects out to 540 yards.
Again, this sort of distance makes it ideal for the average rifle hunter. If you are into taking really long shots, then this might not be for you. The optical lens is 6 x magnification, so objects in the 500 yard range should still be clear enough to get a solid reading.
This is also a compact unit. Measuring at 104 x 72 x 41 mm it is slightly smaller than the Wosports unit and is also lightweight. Again, this is ideal if you just don’t have that much room in your pack or you are going to be doing a good deal of hiking. It also comes complete with a case and lanyard.
Another feature you might find appealing on this rangefinder is the sleek camo look. The woodland camo pattern will blend into most hunting areas, and is a very common pattern for clothing, bows, and backpacks as well. Not that it is a deal sealer, but looking cool never hurts.
On the downside the TecTecTec Pro Wild is getting some feedback that it might not be the most accurate rangefinder on the market. Although it boasts a +/- 1 yard accuracy, in the field it may take a few readings to determine distance. If you shoot in situations where precision is absolutely necessary, this rangefinder may not be a great choice. However, for shooters used to Kentucky windage, the variability may not be a concern.
- Camo pattern
- 6 x magnification
- Disputed accuracy
"simple operation, light and ideal for bowmen"
Worth a serious look is the Halo XL450-7. This dandy little unit maxes out at only 450 yards, but that shouldn’t be a concern for bowhunters.
One feature that bowhunters specifically are sure to love is the AI feature. This is one unit that is capable of compensating the impact of an angle on the shot.
Since bowhunters often hunt out of trees, and precision is paramount, this feature is a wonderful addition. Also, with 6x magnification, whatever you are trying to draw a bead on is sure enough going to be clear.
In addition to its AI technology, this Halo rangefinder also is simple. It has a one button working mode, which makes it ideal for those hunters out there who may not be tech savvy. Another feature you may really appreciate is the featherlight 5 ounce design. This thing is so light, you won’t even know you are carrying it as you pack to your stand. Finally, the unit is water resistant but not waterproof. This means it can stand water, but shouldn’t be taken to a location known to be frequently saturated.
On the downside, the Halo XL450-7 doesn’t come with any cases or lanyards, just a simple wrist sling. For some people this won’t be a huge issue, while for others it might be a deal breaker.
Also, like many rangefinders on this list, the display can be difficult to read in low light conditions. This can cause some problems for hunters since most animals move during the twilight minutes of the day. If you have a hard time seeing in low light, it might not be a good choice.
- Angle compensation
- Feather light
- Lack or case/tether
- Dark display
Nikon 8397 ACULON AL 11
"simple operation, light and ideal for bowmen"
One of the big company names on this list is the Nikon 8397 ACULON AL 11 rangefinder. The ACULON has a maximum distance of 550 yards, making it ideal for gun hunters and bowhunters alike.
This is Nikon’s small rangefinding unit, measuring at just 3.6"x2.9"x1.5" in size. It’s so small, it perhaps can fit inside your coat pocket. It also is another one of those rangefinders that is absolutely easy to use.
With just one button you won’t have to worry about pushing the correct one when your deer finally comes within shooting distance.
The ACULON also does a little better in low light conditions than some of the other rangefinders on this list. This feature will likely be appealing to a wide range of hunters out there, especially those with poorer eyesight. This Nikon product also gains a mark of approval for its highly rated accuracy. Nikon is a company that has been in the optics game for a while and makes good equipment. If you are looking to buy from an experienced manufacturer, this rangefinder might be a good choice.
On the downside, while the ACULON is accurate in measurement, it is a little touchy when it comes to picking up objects. This can be especially true for many rangefinders, and seems to be so with this model. If you are into hunting small game, or are in fast shooting situation where you can’t afford to range twice, this might not be a good choice. Overall though, it a solid unit that is a good option for the average weekend warrior hunter.
- Proven brand name
- Very small
- No tilt feature
- Can be temperamental
Simmons 801600 Volt 600
"simple operation, light and ideal for bowmen"
Finally on our list of budget rangefinders is the Simmons 801600 Volt 600. Like the Wosport, this Simmons rangefinder can reach out to 600 yards.
This added distance not only impacts the far range of its potential, but also makes it able to pick up intermediary objects easier. It also claims to be able to pick up animals like deer at 200 yards.
Oftentimes rangefinders list their maximum range when ranging highly reflective objects. It isn’t unheard of to have a 600 yard range, but only target deer at 200 yards. Also, like many other rangefinders, the Volt 600 can read in meters or in yards, so you can make that change if necessary.
Like many of Simmons products, this model has gained a reputation for having a clear display that is easy to use. Again, if your eyesight isn’t what it used to be, this might be easier to look through. Also the one button design might be an attribute you will appreciate. Sometimes simple is best, and the Simmons Volt 600 is that for sure.
While this simple unit has some strengths, it also has some downsides as well. First off, the magnification is only a 4x. For bowhunters working under 50 yards, this shouldn’t be a big issue. However, for gun hunters this might come into play. This might be especially true given the unit claims to be capable out to 600 yards. At that distance it would be nice to have a 6x magnification on this unit.
- 600 yard range
- Clear optics
- Simple operation
- Only 4x magnification